Swallowed Whole

Legless. Armless. Loves a big squeeze. Hates chewing. What kind of animal are we talking about? We’re describing a snake! Not the venomous kind, though they don’t like to chew either. We mean the python. Found in Africa, Australia, and Asia, this snake is a popular pet, an invasive species, and sometimes, even a hunter (and eater) of human beings. Keep reading to learn more about this snake and its interesting eating habits.

python skull necklace

Python Evolution

If you type the word “python” into Google, make sure you also add the word “animal” at the end. Otherwise, your search results will come back with a bunch of stuff on computer science and programming languages. Now that we’ve got that out of the way…
The animal known as the python is often confused with the boa constrictor (and rarely with computer programs in real life); however, scientists have discovered that the two snakes actually evolved independently to have similar characteristics. And it not only happened once, but five different times in five different habitats!
Whether it was in a tree, in the water, on the ground, or underground, pythons look very similar to boa constrictors. This is an example of convergent evolution – where animals evolve in the same way under the same conditions. It also gives us a peek at how natural selection works. In this case, if the physical characteristics work on one animal, it’ll work on another!

Big Snake Likes Big Food

Pythons are capable of reaching a length of 23 feet and can get as thick as a telephone pole. When they’re small, they may enjoy a nice meal of mice and rats. As they get bigger, they need bigger food. To catch and kill prey, a python will hide and ambush the meal. Once the snake grabs the animal with its mouth, it then wraps its body around the body of its prey, squeezing tighter with each breath that is exhaled. Most animals or people die from cardiac arrest. It’s thought that the python and other constrictors can generate so much pressure inside the blood vessels of their prey that both the brain and the heart give out. A big squeeze indeed.
After the big squeeze comes the big bite. Or the big swallow. Snakes can unhinge their jaws and open them as wide as whatever it is they’re eating. A python in Indonesia ate a woman once, taking about an hour to swallow her. Another python in Australia killed and swallowed a freshwater crocodile in about five hours. The good news is that the python usually doesn’t need to eat for weeks after a large meal.

If You Love Pythons

Got love for this big snake? We’ve got just the gift for you – our python skull necklace! It’s edgy, it has teeth, and now, after reading this newsletter, there’s a great story that goes along with this piece of jewelry! Purchase it for yourself or for a friend. It also makes a great gift for herpetologists, python lovers, people who love hugs, and computer programmers.

written by Science with Evie


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